Krystian Zimerman: Piano Works Review — First-Rate Tribute to Karol Szymanowski
It is five years since Krystian Zimerman's last recital disc. Solo recordings from this leading Polish pianist have always been a rarity and his latest, a selection of piano music by Karol Szymanowski, was started as long ago as 1994, so it has been a while in the making. Recitals of Szymanowski's piano music do not come round often either, so this new project is welcome. Zimerman finished the recording in Japan last year and its long gestation has yielded a truly first-rate tribute to his compatriot, who is unfairly neglected as a piano composer. The music has been chosen to show Szymanowski's development through his life and the wide range of his piano pieces. It starts right at the beginning with four of the Préludes, Op 1, dreamily played, as if the pianist is improvising in the style of Szymanowski's great Polish predecessor Chopin. From there it is a big leap to the Masques, Op 34, where Szymanowski's fascination with the east evokes a wholly new atmosphere. Exotically sensual music shimmers up and down the keyboard, interrupted by momentary outbursts of violence. The mazurkas that follow are not like Chopin's mazurkas at all, as one might have expected; Debussy is the closest match in this scintillating music's impressionist sheen. Finally, Zimerman plays the better-known Variations on a Polish Folk Theme, Op 10. This is a tremendous showpiece, and played as such, Zimerman revelling in the multifarious challenges, leading to a barnstormer of a fugal finale. The whole disc is a delight and a discovery.